Your evolving business plan

I was going through old files recently, and came across some archived business plans from several past companies. Man, how things change…

Business Plans are necessary inasmuch as they put your company’s strategy on paper. You’re forced to think about how you will accomplish your objectives, and if you’re raising capital, the business plan is as much a marketing tool as it is a set of operational guidelines.

But business plans can be slavish mistresses, and it is easy to spend more time on your planning than on your operations. In your first year of operation, and especially in a new or evolving marketplace, so much will change so quickly that your business plan may be outdated before it’s even finished.

I’ve never been one for academic writing, and in my early days of company building, I think I made up all the time I didn’t spend on research papers from fifth grade to college sophomore on writing my business plans. I loved the weight of forty-page strategic manifesto. But now, six years after my first business plan, I’ve streamlined the process. Business conditions change too much and operations are even more demanding than planning!

Here’s the streamlined process I go through now. It takes about an hour for one person to prototype, and allows for rapid adjustment as you review with your partner(s).

:: What are the general market conditions for the product/service? Have there been any tipping points, obvious or obscure, in the past six months?

:: What is the strategic vision for the company in five years? Has it changed from what it was six months ago? Why?

:: What is the strategic vision for the company in six months?

:: What are the specific goals for the next six months?

::What are the specific tactical initiatives that will allow us to accomplish those goals?

:: How are those initiatives split up amongst management, and to which employees or groups of employees are individual tasks delegated?

Each goal, initiative, and task is “tagged” – sales, marketing, website, events, etc. Multiple tags can apply to each item, and when it comes time to delegate items, employees can have multiple tags for which they’re managers, executors, influencers, and reviewers.

The benefits of this process are that it allows for rapid adjustments to market conditions, assumes a changing workforce, and most importantly, lets you quickly get through your strategy sessions and back to running your business.

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